“Content is king.” If you kind of know what that phrase means, but aren’t entirely sure then this post is for you. Before you hop on the content marketing bandwagon, let’s get back to the basics and learn the what, before the why and the how.
Businesses everywhere are getting in on the success of content marketing and it can be tempting to react and try to get in on it too. But before you delve into any details, it’s important to get this out of the way:
What Exactly Is Content Marketing, Anyway?
Well, depending on the marketer you ask, content marketing can be:
“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” – Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute
“A narrative form of marketing that focuses on the consumer’s needs while telling a story. Content marketing gently persuades prospects and helps buyers and the public.” – Heidi Cohen, Chief Content Officer of Actionable Marketing Guide
“Creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.” – Brian Clark, Founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital (company behind Copyblogger)
“Is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content to target audience with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing business from existing customers.” – Amanda Maksymiw, Content Marketing Industry Influencer
See a common theme? The essence of content marketing is providing valuable content to your audience.
It’s not one-way broadcasting where you’re pushing out a sales message for the sake of impressions.
Content marketing is about attracting audiences by giving them information they want to consume.
Is Content Marketing Right for My Business?
If you’ve been hesitant to spend money on content marketing, you’re not alone. Many businesses, still, don’t fully understand the benefits of content marketing.
And in order to want to open your wallet, you need to know what you’ll get in return.
So, what are the benefits of content marketing?
The obvious benefits, which are easy to see and easy to measure, are:
- Improved SEO—without content, what would Google have to index?
- Increased site traffic—creating great content will attract people to your website, where they’ll find more information on your company and products/service
- Direct customer conversions—great web copy will persuade people that you’ve got a valuable product/service to offer
The more abstract benefits, the intangibles (just as important) are:
- Enhanced brand awareness—one of those elusive marketing concepts that is hard to measure and even harder to build. Creating content gives your audience something to talk about, and when they’re talking about you, they’re indirectly teaching others about your company
- Strong industry authority—earning trust, regardless of the relationship, industry or situation, takes time, no ifs ands or buts. But once you’ve proven your integrity and knowledge by consistently creating quality content, readers will turn to you for insights and advice. That authority will naturally transfer over to your products or services.
- Indirect customer conversions—if great web copy in the form of product descriptions or service pages is enough to convert customers, then a great blog post will inevitably do the same. If you’re creating targeted content, you’re bridging the gap between them and your products or services.
Content Marketing is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
If you think that publishing a few blog posts and refreshing your website copy will give you a boost in traffic, you’re right.
But if you’re expecting instant sales, you’ve got another thing coming.
The return of content marketing compounds—which means you won’t see the benefits right away.
If you’ve read Jim Collins’ From Good to Great, then you know what the flywheel effect is.
“To get it moving, you make a tremendous effort. You push with all your might, and finally you get the flywheel to inch forward. After two or three days of sustained effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster. It takes a lot of work, but at last the flywheel makes a second rotation.
You keep pushing steadily. It makes three turns, four turns, five, six. With each turn, it moves faster, and then—at some point, you can’t say exactly when—you break through. The momentum of the heavy wheel kicks in your favor. It spins faster and faster, with its own weight propelling it. You aren’t pushing any harder, but the flywheel is accelerating, its momentum building, its speed increasing.”
Content marketing is a great example of flywheel marketing—it takes some effort to get it started but over time, the momentum you build lessens the effort required from you to keep it going.
Does Content Marketing Need a Big Budget?
When you see enterprises and mid-sized businesses doing content marketing, it can be shocking to see their monthly marketing spend.
But, you can still be successful in content marketing without a large budget or team. Being cash strapped is no excuse to skip out on content marketing.
We’ll talk later about how you can do content marketing on a shoestring budget but just know that you don’t need to break the bank. If anything, a lack of funds just means you’re forced to create and curate content that’s more targeted and higher quality.
When Everett Taylor, Co-Founder of GrowthHackers, growth strategist for Microsoft and CEO of digital marketing firm Millisense, was asked how he would spend $1,000 in marketing spend, this was his answer:
“The ROI you’ll get on [$1,000] in marketing spend isn’t worth it. You’re thinking inside a box with marketing budgets instead of out of the box—which can’t be the mentality of a startup marketer.
[Creating content, building an email list, growing a social media audience and optimizing your website] All these things can be done with little to no marketing spend outside of paying for some software. And a lot of marketing software you can use at least for one month for free.”
Does Content Marketing Live Up to the Hype?
Increased brand awareness sounds cool, so does more credibility. Obviously, increased web traffic is a nice boost of confidence and getting a few more subscribers is cool too.
But does content marketing really help you get more sales?
When it comes to the marketing funnel, content marketing is often associated with the discovery phase or the top part of the funnel. It’s a misconception.
Since content marketing can be tailored to your audience, you can essentially tailor your messaging to where each audience is in your marketing funnel. But since the perception of content marketing is that it only reaches customers that are just discovering your service or product, they’re too many steps away from turning into a sales and probably not worth the effort. Showing the value of content marketing to your decision makers can be challenging.
According to Moz, talking about the benefits of content marketing is great way to educate decision makers on why content marketing is worth the effort.
If the soft sell approach wasn’t enough to build the business case for content marketing, then you’ll have to talk numbers. Luckily, Michael Brenner wrote a comprehensive post on getting buy in and the secret to content marketing ROI.
Consumers today are smarter and can access information easier than ever before. Traditional marketing, one-way broadcasts and pushing messaging out, is becoming less effective because we’re better at tuning it out.
You’re probably already doing content marketing, to a certain extent. And marketing in general is damn near impossible without great content.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, are you ready to learn more about how you can actually use content marketing?
Leave a comment below to let me know what excites you most about content marketing or what your biggest apprehensions are about starting!